Rental platform Zumper is entering the vacation rental market.
The San Francisco-based company has launched Vacations by Zumper, which includes listings Bookings.com, Vrbo, as well as hotels. It has partnered with Evolve and Rentals United — Evolve is providing 27,000 home listings to Zumper, and the site has launched with 50,000 new hotel listings.
The company also said that it has expanded its short-term rental inventory to over 1 million listings, a 50 percent increase from its initial launch in August 2022. Earlier this month, it launched Flexpass, its subscription service targeting remote workers and digital nomads for an annual fee of $300.
Zumper caters to mobile renters, targeting remote workers and digital nomads. Apartments listed on the site come fully furnished and equipped and can be rented for a minimum of 30 nights without leases, security deposits, application or cleaning fees.
Founded in 2012, the company claims it wants to make renting a home as easy as booking a hotel. The company has raised a total of $180 million in funding with the latest Series D round of $30 million led by Kleiner Perkins. Blackstone Group, Greylock,Greycroft, Axel Springer, Breyer Capital and Andreessen Horowitz have also invested in Zumper. The company acquired Padmapper and NowRenting in 2016 and 2019 respectively.
The Swiss city of Lucerne is the latest to place restrictions on short-term rentals. Lucerne citizens voted (64 percent) to limit short-term rental stays to a maximum of 90 days per year.
Lucerne is the fifth city in Switzerland after Geneva, Zurich, Basel and Bern to cap short-term rentals. The initiative was led by Social Democratic Party, aimed to cap rentals available on a temporary basis to make more housing available to residents of the city.
Bern is one of the top tourist destinations in the country, and those opposed to the move warned that it might risk losing incoming tourists.
Switzerland joins a number of cities across Europe to curtail short-term rentals via platforms like Airbnb, Vrbo. Earlier this month, Portugal proposed a ban on issuing new licenses to operate short-term rentals in a move to manage the cost-of-living and housing crisis.
There are similar restrictions in Madrid, Andalusia, Barcelona and Valencia in Spain.
This comes on the heels of the European Commission approving new rules about collecting and sharing data on short-term accommodation at EU level. Beyond data-sharing, the EU-level regulations aim to reduce fragmentation among local communities, clamp down illegal listings and promote sustainable tourism in keeping with local laws and regional mandates across Europe.
German vacation rental marketplace HomeToGo’s revenue grew to €146 million ($155 million) in 2022, up 54 percent from the comparable period in 2021. This is well ahead of its initial guidance of €120-125 million ($127-$132 million) for 2022. The announcement is part of the company’s preliminary results for 2022.
During the same period, the Berlin-based company’s subscriptions and services grew to €24 million ($25.4 million) increasing by 169 percent from €9 million ($9.5 million) in 2021. Its onsite revenues, where travelers booked directly on the company’s websites, grew to €67 million ($71 million), up by 111 percent from €32 million ($34 million) from 2021.
Founded in 2014, HomeToGo currently operates localized apps and websites in 25 countries.
In January this year, the company said it was on track to break even in 2023, buoyed by the optimism of a much greater backlog of bookings at the beginning of 2023 than the previous year. The booking backlog of €32.5 million ($34.5 million) amounted to a 72 percent year-over-year increase.
“One key piece of this has been our clear focus on an efficient marketing strategy to drive and scale repeat demand,” HomeToGo CFO Steffen Schneider told Skift in January.
HomeToGo raised a total of $176 million in private funding over six rounds, and has acquired 10 companies, a prominent one being e-domizil for $45 million in March 2022.
UnderTheDoormat Group CEO Merilee Karr said her company’s new technology and distribution agreement with Visit Oman can be a novel approach to short-term regulation — one where technology can spur governments to embrace the sector rather than shun it.
Through an agreement signed last month in Muscat, Oman, government-approved property listings delivered through the UK’s UnderTheDoormat Group’s Hospira property management and distribution platform were live in November in time for the World Cup in Qatar.
Oman already offered had short-term rentals through hotel licenses and from a variety of players on big global platforms such as Airbnb and Booking.com.
But Karr said the tech partnership breaks new ground, officially opens the market, and provides Oman with the transparency it sought about an otherwise-fragmented sector.
Property developers, hospitality companies, small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), and eventually individually owned short-term rentals that are licensed can connect their properties through Hospira to access the market, and the major global platforms, she said.
The Visit Oman-UnderTheDoormat Group pact is exclusive, Karr said.
Like others in the Middle East, Oman is trying to develop a more diversified tourism economy.
“Through the Visit Oman gateway, the Hospiria platform will provide an efficient launching point for Omani companies, SMEs, and property owners to place their apartments, villas and homes onto the short-term rental market globally,” said Sahib Al Mamari, managing director of Visit Oman, as part of the announcement. “This latest Visit Oman initiative with UnderTheDoormat falls in line with the broader, existing Oman Tourism Vision 2040 strategy, and serves to shift the Sultanate of Oman towards a more diversified and developed tourism economy, and one that leverages digital innovation and technology to maximize value for the Omani tourism market, as well as the tourism-related SME economy in Oman.”
Channel managers have tech systems to assist accommodations in distributing their properties to websites such as Airbnb, Vrbo and Booking, and sometimes to global distribution systems, among other outlets.
“After we made the decision to sell our business, we looked for a company that would create true synergies with our existing value proposition,” said Joel Inman, CEO and founder of Lexicon. “As I got to know the RedAwning platform, I realized they have already solved many of the technical challenges Lexicon has been facing. RedAwning brings true technology and automation to channel management that delivers value through higher conversion with essentially zero manual work.”
RedAwning has a portfolio of some 15,000 managed and independent short-term rentals in North America, and already provides channel management services as it places them on websites such as Vrbo, Booking.com, Expedia, Homes & Villas by Marriott International, and Google Travel.
RedAwning hopes to pick up the channel management client roster of Lexicon Travel Technologies, which is headquartered in Park City, Utah. RedAwning is buying Lexicon’s channel management tech.
RedAwning said most of Lexicon’s clients have already related their intentions to use Red Awning for channel management.
“The transitions will be seamless for all of our new clients, as RedAwning already supports all of the same PMS (Property Management System) platforms as Lexicon and all of the channels too, as well as many more for Lexicon clients to join,” said RedAwning CEO Tim Choate in the announcement.
Longtime Vrbo executive Jeff Hurst, who was chief operating officer of Expedia brands and formerly Vrbo’s president, is leaving the company.
This follows the exit in September of John Kim, who was president of Expedia Marketplace, and last month became executive vice president and chief product officer at PayPal.
Expedia Group announced earlier this week that Brad Bentley, most previously president and CEO of clean energy company Inspire, would become chief operating officer of Expedia brands, taking Hurst’s role.
Hurst had been with Expedia/Vrbo and predecessor company HomeAway since 2010.
Kim has worked at Expedia/HomeAway since 2011.
Following Expedia Group hiring former Google travel advertising director Rob Torres in April, Expedia stated this week that it hired Tript Singh Lamba, most previously head of head of product for YouTube ad monetization and personalization at Google, as senior vice president of consumer product for Expedia product & technology.
Bentley will report to Jon Gieselman, president, Expedia Brands, including Expedia, Vrbo and Hotels.com. Lamba will report to Rathi Murthy, Expedia Group’s chief technology officer and president, Expedia product & technology.
“Building long-lasting direct traveler relationships and operating more effectively with our capital allocation are core components of our B2C strategy,” Giselman said in the announcement statement. “It is critical to have a leader that understands all the complicated investment tradeoffs between customer acquisition, engagement, and retention, and can apply that experience to our planning, operating model, and daily operations. Brad’s substantial operational experience with direct-to-consumer products puts our Brands division in a position to thrive even more.”
Expedia didn’t announce a reason for Hurst’s departure, and a spokesperson characterized it as merely a leadership change after Hurst’s more than 10 years of accomplishments at Expedia and HomeAway.
Just five weeks after Rob Greyber became CEO of Vacasa, the board has shaken up the leadership ranks anew, including naming TurnKey co-founder John Banczak chief operating officer, effective immediately.
TurnKey was Vacasa’s main rival among property management companies in North America until Vacasa bought Turnkey for $619 million in April 2021.
Banczak will supervise Vacasas’s field and central operations teams, the company said Friday in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
Banczak had served as Vacasa’s chief strategy officer.
In other moves, Greyber, who formerly headed Egencia for Expedia Group, will add chief product officer to his current CEO duties on an interim basis. Michael Xenakis, Vacasa’s chief product officer, will leave the company at the end of the month, Vacasa stated.
Vacasa led its announcement about executive changes with the promotion of Chief Operating Officer Craig Smith to the role of chief commercial officer. Smith had become Vacasa’s chief operating officer in early 2021.
In his new role as chief commercial officer, Smith will also assume Michael Dodson’s responsibilities as chief revenue officer. Vacasa said Dodson will exit the company in early November.
Some 10 months ago, Vacasa closed its first day of trading on Nasdaq in a blank check merger on December 7, 2021 at $9.84 per share, and closed trading Friday at $3.25.
Vacasa generated $9.94 million in net income in the second quarter, which ended June 30, on revenue of $310 million, a 31 percent year over year increase.
The property management company, the largest in North America, raised its 2022 revenue and adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) guidance in August, and projected adjusted earnings profitability in 2023.
“Google will kill Airbnb,” tweeted Nick Huber, who writes about business and real estate, owns a self-storage company, and has 247,000 followers on Twitter.
Two people independently messaged me about the tweet, which has generated a few thousand “likes,” and hundreds of retweets since Sunday.
One Skift colleague said of the tweet: “Everything this guy says in his tweet thread is wrong.”
Conversely, a superhost in Europe messaged me about Huber’s tweet: “I would have to agree. Everybody loves a direct booking (both hosts and guests), with no whopping service charges.”
Hosts Just Need to Put Links to Properties in Google … Hmmm
If only it were that simple.
Huber argues that hosts and guests can avoid Airbnb’s substantial fees, and both can save money with direct bookings. Actually, he claimed that Airbnb takes 25 percent of the transaction, mostly from guests, in the form of fees, which seems excessively off the mark.
After this story posted, travel industry veteran Drew Patterson tweeted that Airbnb revenue was only 13 percent of gross bookings in 2021.
One of the silliest things Huber tweets is, “All it takes is folks putting a little link to their software in the Google listing. Management co manages that directly. Way more revenue to owner and less cost to guests.”
Alas, graveyards full of startup companies from Palo Alto to Madrid and Mexico City are testimony to the fact that you can’t merely put a link on a Google business listing, and expect millions upon millions of customers to discover it, and then use it. It takes a mammoth amount of resources to attract direct bookings and for a vacation rental business to build their own brands.
Hey, direct bookings would be mostly great for hosts and, to a lesser extent, guests, but how can property owners and managers attract them?
If you look at the global hotel industry, it has done an admirable job over the last few years, spending huge sums in advertising to urge customers to book directly on their own websites, where they have the lowest rates, instead of using online travel agencies.
Hotel direct bookings haven’t killed Expedia or Booking.com. Travel, it is often said, isn’t a zero-sum game. There is ample room for multiple winners.
Property owners use Airbnb for a reason: Airbnb has a great brand, and attracts legions of guests who start searching for places to stay on Airbnb instead of beginning their trip-planning on Google.
How does the host with one or a handful of properties compete with that kind of market power?
Direct Bookings Have Risks, Too
And although guests can avoid Airbnb’s fees by booking direct with the host, they run the risk of having no one to turn to if the host or property turn out to be a nightmare. Whether or not they work as well as advertised, Airbnb has some insurance protections in place for both hosts and guests.
Airbnb critics will be quick to say that Airbnb’s customer service for guests can be challenging, but it’s often better than dealing with hosts who have no brand or track record to stand behind them.
In fact, Google’s travel vertical has a vacation rentals feature, and it hasn’t really distinguished itself or put much of a dent in Airbnb’s growth precisely because Airbnb, and other big vacation rental brands, have shunned offering their homes and apartments through Google vacation rentals. So Google is hardly usurping Airbnb on that front.
Google has certainly damaged the businesses of innumerable travel companies because of its near-monopoly in search and the way it preferences its own travel advertising features. Curiously, although most of the far-out theories about Google taking over the travel industry tend to say that Google will transition from an advertising to a booking platform and would become an online travel agency — a switch that Google has shown little appetite for — Huber isn’t even making that argument.
Instead, he’s arguing that Google will serve as a listing platform, and build advertising around it, and that hosts, with an assist perhaps from property managers, would see direct bookings flow like lava down a hillside because these offers are inherently the best and cheapest deals for both hosts and guests.
Both Google and Airbnb Face Headwinds
Google killing Airbnb begs the question of which of the two has momentum versus the other. Both face big antitrust or regulatory challenges, and it’s hard to choose which one has the more daunting obstacles.
A little deeper into his twitter thread, Huber retreats a bit from his Google killing Airbnb opener, and pleads for “nuance.”
“Of course Airbnb will always have users,” he tweeted. “But over time many guests will go on google, find a vacation rental in an ideal location, click through to that website & book w/o paying hundreds in fees. 20 yrs from now ABNB will be a glorified lead generator.”
When it comes to predicting the future of companies two decades from now, I’ll pass on that one, considering it is difficult to look even two or three years ahead to see what the business world would look like.
So, alas, in Huber’s view, his talk of Airbnb’s death was apparently bombast.
When a twitter user tells Huber he downplayed the importance of factors like trust and reliability when considering direct bookings versus reservations through Airbnb, Huber retreats a bit further, tweeting:
“I think there will be an increased number of guests going directly. You can do all of those things without giving a huge chunk to Airbnb.”
Finally, that’s something we can agree with: There are many hosts doing everything they can to generate direct bookings, and they’ll likely have a degree of success. But I don’t believe “Google will kill Airbnb,” or that Airbnb will close shop anytime soon.
Note:This story has been updated to include additional information on Airbnb’s take rate. It also clarified Google’s role in the travel industry.
In its endeavor to expand as a preferred full-stack vacation homes provider, Oyo has acquired Denmark-based vacation rental operator — Bornholmske Feriehuse.
Oyo has made the acquisition through its subsidiary DanCenter. Bornholmske Feriehuse has over 700 homes on its platform and according to an Oyo release the company is expected to clock more than 250,000 guest nights in 2022.
The acquisition underlines Oyo’s commitment to invest in Denmark towards accelerating the growth of travel and tourism in the market.
An initiative by Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs — Invest in Denmark — helps attract and retain foreign investments in the country by providing a customized one-stop service for foreign companies, looking to set up or expand business in Denmark.
The demand from foreign guests in holiday homes has been particularly high, said Rasmus Lund, director of Bornholmske Feriehuse. Lund hoped that the collaboration with Oyo would give Bornholmske Feriehuse the opportunity to keep up with demand, while allowing homeowners to benefit from the many online portals that DanCenter collaborates with.
“The agreement would help our many holiday home owners achieve a higher rental percentage, while also contributing income and jobs to Bornholm,” said Lund, who will continue as the director of the vacation rental company.
The acquisition in Bornholm will strengthen Oyo’s presence in Europe. In May, Oyo acquired Croatia-headquartered Direct Booker, which has more than 3,200 homes.
Oyo already owns vacation rental brands in Europe such as Belvilla (Belvilla by Oyo), DanCenter, Danland and Traum Ferienwohnungen offering fully-managed private homes across the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Croatia.